Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Hello all,

 

I'm a newbie, very new to everything.  The idea of aquaponic fascinated me after 6 months of intense research on urban farming.  My plan is to master this, so I can turn it into a business, since I'm tired of working as an attorney, and wants to become a farmer (everyone think I'm nuts, but I dont have any passion practicing real estate law anymore). So over a month now, I finally set up a 275 gallon IBC system to test out Aquaponic.  To my amazement it's not as easy as I thought it would be.

 

I got 12 channel catfishs and about 20 bluegills from going fishing for them. Filled my growbed with 100 liters of generic medium, similar to hydroton. A week later all the fishes died.  Then I just found out, after more research to get a testing kit at Petco to test out the pH level, temps, Nitrates, Nitrites and Ammonia.  Got that yesterday and performed the tests.  pH is at 7.6, temp is always around 76 degrees, nitrates and nitrites and ammonia are in good standing.  Also yesterday I put 20 gold fish in.  Today, after work I test out the water again, everything is still the same but pH rises to 8.0, and 5 of the gold fish died.  I figured probably the reason is because of the pH level is too high.  I really want my pH level to be between 6.5 and 7.  What can I do to accomplish that?  I got some pH Down and Up droplets but for my tank size, I dont think it's practical with the small bottle.  Is there a better way to decrease the pH level, meanwhile it does not harm my fish and my vegetables.

 

Your expertise is greatly appreciated.

 

Thanks

 

 

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Kou so much ground to cover here. You should use muratic acid to lower ph. It can be found in the hardware stores. About a tsp a time till you get the ph to 7.2  lower it only .2 per day. If you bought feeder gold fish they are about worthless due to being sick from the get gol Recommend Koi till your skills are up on fish then try more exotic like cats or tilapia. Cats due need more room. Also recommend you dont quit your day job till you have made a fortune at this. hehe.Tip for using this site whenever you have a question type it in the search bar. We have all been where you are and have gone through it as well. This site has a  boat load of experts and the discussions are all easily searched to help you. Take er easy and slow.

 

hi there and welcome. I've lost quite a few goldies, feeders all. I believe you might've lost yours because the ph change too quickly for them. that, or any number of things. feeders usually arrive sick. for example, only three out of twenty from the last batch I had 2 months ago have survived.

There is much about water chemistry that can get you in trouble. It's not necessarily that hard but there are many things that can kill fish.

First, you want to make sure your IBC didn't contain anything toxic before you got it.

Second, you need to make sure it was very well clean out and that you didn't leave any soap residue since soap is pretty deadly to fish.

Third, What is your source water?  Is it treated with chlorine or chloramine?  Treated water can kill fish and inhibit the nitrogen cycle and keep your bio-filter from working.  Chlorine can be gotten rid of just by letting water sit out and perhaps aerating it for a while.  Chloramine tanks much longer to get rid of that way and I would recommend getting a carbon filter to take care of it.

 

I highly recommend fishless cycling if you loose all your fish again before you are cycled up.  Read up on the nitrogen cycle and fishless cycling

And here is a rules of thumb page that has much useful info.

Rules of thumb

You can also download the IBC of Aquaponics manual for free from BYAP which has a wealth of great info along with pictures of many IBC systems and lost of good reference info.

 

Once you are ready for fish, 100 gallons of grow bed is not going to support many fish.  I would perhaps start out stock with 12-15 fish total and only that many if they will not get very big.  If someone said a 100 gallon grow bed could support 20 fish, they meant only after the system was well cycled and only if you were already an expert at keeping fish alive even under difficult conditions.

 

When you put new fish into a new system, it is not uncommon to kill them all if you are not testing the water daily and monitoring your biofilter for proper cycle up.  In the aquarium world this would be called new tank syndrome and the fish are usually dieing from ammonia poisoning.  In general during initial cycle up you need less fish and you have to restrict the feeding so as not to kill the fish with ammonia or nitrite.  Initial cycle up might be done fishlessly in 3-6 weeks depending on weather conditions and to do it with fish I would generally say it takes 4-8 weeks since you have to keep the ammonia/nitrite low enough not to kill your fish and any water changes to keep the fish alive tend to slow the process.

 

As to pH, this can be a very complex subject but to start your system initially a pH between 7-8 will be fine especially if you cycle up fishlessly.  If using fish you would probably be better off between 7-7.6.  As the bio-filter works it will naturally bring pH down but you want to make sure you keep your pH in a testable range for your test kit so I recommend taking action to adjust your pH before it falls below 6.5.  If your pH gets down to 6 and your test kit only reads down to 6 then the pH could actually be far lower and pH suddenly crashing like that can often result in the bacteria stopping and the ammonia spiking again.  So if the pH gets down to 6.5 you probably want to add a little buffer or something fish safe to bring the pH back up alternating between calcium and potassium carbonates or bi-carbonates is one method, another might be to alternate using small amounts of potassium hydroxide and calcium hydroxide but these are caustic and you much be very careful with them so as not to bring the pH up too high too fast.  The reason for alternating is so one doesn't wind up with an overabundance of calcium in a system which can cause potassium to be unavailable to the plants.  Tap water in much of the country is hard with calcium carbonate which will buffer pH up too but here is a blog post I did on pH and tap water that will probably help you out.

 

Good Luck, do much reading and welcome to the addiction.

Hi Kou,

I am also new and have a 275 gallon IBC system. I expect you have one 275 gallon IBC is that correct? Is this the type of system where you chop off the top and invert it to make the grow bed? If that is the case you may be overstocking the fish. In aquaponics slow is better. Minor changes work the best. For example I cycled my system for six weeks before I added fish (my wife says five months). I didn't add fifty fish at once. I have 27 fish and watch the water tests. I expect I will add another twenty soon. My numbers are all perfect and I didn't loose a single fish. It's 97F outside right now.

My PH is high at 8.2 and I am not sure why. It may be the 3/4 gravel I am using. Because of the high PH I am growing out tilapia because they are tolerant of the high PH.

 

I followed the instructions on Murry Hallam's DIY aquaponics DVD.

http://www.theaquaponicstore.com/Murray-Hallam-s-DIY-Aquaponics-Vid...

Thank you for all of your replies.  I never thought aquaponic can be so challenging, I love it. At first I thought you just add fish, a growing bed with mediums and plants then you're good to go. Now I realized there's a science to it.

 

Today I checked, without the time to get the acids David recommend, and my readings are fairly the same, except for pH is now at 8.0. My water is murky...but I can see the gold fishes. My plants on the grow beds seems to be doing fine though. 

 

Water being murky, what do you suggest I get to clear up the water or let it be and hoping to eventually clear up.  I think I'm at the stage of cycling now.

Chris, 

 

My test system is a 275 gallon IBC tank (food grade) which I thorough clean with dish washer detergents, and let it dry for a couple days.

 

I guess my problem is not understanding the cycling system.  I thought once it's clean, install a bell siphon pump, filled the lower tank with water, the bed filled with medium, plant vegies, and put fishes in the lower tank, then it's all good.This is from a guy who knows nothing about raising fish and gardening, but sit his a.ss in the office everyday..hahahahaha

 

 

Chris McMahon said:

Hi Kou,

I am also new and have a 275 gallon IBC system. I expect you have one 275 gallon IBC is that correct? Is this the type of system where you chop off the top and invert it to make the grow bed? If that is the case you may be overstocking the fish. In aquaponics slow is better. Minor changes work the best. For example I cycled my system for six weeks before I added fish (my wife says five months). I didn't add fifty fish at once. I have 27 fish and watch the water tests. I expect I will add another twenty soon. My numbers are all perfect and I didn't loose a single fish. It's 97F outside right now.

My PH is high at 8.2 and I am not sure why. It may be the 3/4 gravel I am using. Because of the high PH I am growing out tilapia because they are tolerant of the high PH.

 

I followed the instructions on Murry Hallam's DIY aquaponics DVD.

http://www.theaquaponicstore.com/Murray-Hallam-s-DIY-Aquaponics-Vid...
The soap might have cause a problem as fish don't like chemicals. I hope you got it all out of the system before you added water. The plants don't care about soap. Your going to have fun trying to clean the water enough with one grow bed. You should test your ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates daily. If any of these are high your going to see problems. If you can, post your testing results as they will be the indicator of what needs to be done to balance the system. Whatever you do don't just start adding stuff to the system. Then your testing will be off and you won't know what to do to balance it.

Aquaponics can sometimes be as simple as fish tank, grow bed, add fish and plants and away you go, however, it is also a natural system and if not designed in a correct balance and started out properly, well trouble shooting can be a challenge.

 

Yes do water tests regularly and track your results.  Through initial cycling, daily tests would be good.  Nitrates you don't have to worry so much about though as they are not toxic to fish until the are outrageously high long term.

Okay...can you guys help me with what this means:

 

pH High: 8.2

pH Low: 7.6

Ammonia: .5

Nitrate: .0

Nitrite: .0

Water temp: 72.6

 

Today 2 of my gold fish passed way. But the water appears to be clearer, and the vegies seems to be greener.

 

 

Your measurements look good for goldfish. Are the other fish messing with them? Do you have additional air going into the fish tank other than the flood drain cycle? I added four 12" air stones and a top fin air pump to my tank. People say you can't have too much air in the water unless you blow the fish out of the tank.

I would run a chlorine test.

Yes, I have 1 12" and 1 8" airstone running. Along with 8 bricks on the bottom as shelters for the fish. Also put 8 water hyacinth plant in there as well. On my grow bed I planted of each of the following for test purpose.

 

1. Bell peppers

2. Lettuce

3. Cabbage

4. Green beans

5. Japanese egg plants

6. Strawberry

7. Cilantro

8. Green Onion

9. Thail Basil

10. Lemon Grass

11. Garlic

 

Is it too much?  So I'm assuming when the system stabilized my water should be crystal clear huh

 

 

water usually clears up with time and water being pumped through the grow beds as much as possible.  Sometimes putting a sock over the water return can help if it is just silt clouding the water.  Once a good layer of bio-slime builds up in the media bed it usually helps to catch the particles and pull them out of the water.  Of course you need to have enough grow bed to handle the load to make this work well.

 

Once the system stabilizes the water should clear up but I wouldn't call most mature ap water crystal clear, it usually looks somewhere between amber or yellow to a nice tea color but still clear, just tinted.

 

The pH of 8.2 may be a little high for ammonia levels getting much higher than that so keep your feeding minimal (if the ammonia goes up any higher, stop feeding till it comes down) if you are striving to keep those fish alive.  Then again, cheap goldfish are sometimes not that hardy to begin with.

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